What We Can Learn From Jeb Bush’s Speech Flubs

Jeb BushJeb Bush gave a major foreign policy speech two days ago in Chicago.  By many accounts, it was littered with flubs.  According to Dana Milbank at the Washington Post, Bush started the speech with a misstep:

“We definitely no longer inspire fear in our enemies,” the nominal front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination said at the start of his ballyhooed address in Chicago. “The problem is perhaps best demonstrated by this administration’s approach to Iraq.  We’ve had 35 years of experience with Iran,” he went on, then realized his earlier mistake. “Excuse me, Iran. Thirty-five years’ experience with Iran’s rulers.”

Yikes!  And on the economy:

“A top priority, he explained, is “reforming a broken immigration system and turning it into an economic — a catalytic converter for sustained economic growth.”

He was most likely searching for the word “catalyst” but instead evoked an automobile exhaust converter.  He eventually admitted his foreign policy was in the training phase:

“Look, the more I get into this stuff, there are some things where you just go, you know, ‘Holy schnikes.”

Holy schnikes indeed.  What can we take away from this speech?  How do you avoid flubs, tangents and malapropisms?  To a certain degree, you can’t.  Making mistakes is part of speech making and can only be partially avoided.  But knowing your material cold is essential if you are going to give a speech and Q and A.  Simply put, if Bush is not well versed in foreign policy yet, he should not be giving a major speech on it.

As in life, timing is everything when it comes to public speaking.  Knowing when to address a topic in your speech, and when to leave it alone, is half the battle of putting together a dynamic presentation.

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